THE CHINESE PEOPLE 39
of the Chinese national life, a late period for an old civilization* And in literature, one needs only to think of the lateness of the prose epic and tale of wonder, for the Skuihu (All Men Are Brothers) and Hsiyucki must be considered such, and they were certainly perfected after the fourteenth century, almost two thousand years after Confucius and Laotse had lived and died.
The epic was strangely unknown in ancient China, or it was irretrievably lost without any existing trace in literature. The narrative poem came only in the Han Dynasty, and there were not many of them. The drama came into popularity only with the Mongol Dynasty in the eleventh century. Tales of imagination like the Hsiyucki came about the same time, when the Chinese imagination was stimulated by Buddhism. The novel as such really had a humble beginning only in the ninth century, had its mature development late in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (Ming) and reached its climax in the beginning of the Manchu Dynasty with the Red Chamber Dream, a contemporary and Oriental counterpart of Clarissa Harlowe. Had China's cultural life flowered and then ended a few centuries after Confucius as the Greek genius did, there would have been only some fine moral maxims and folk lyrics, and certainly none of China's great paintings, novels and architecture to offer to the world. This sounds as if we are not watching the arrested development of a nation that reached its full bloom in its young Golden Age like Greece and Rome, but that we are watching the prolonged childhood of a race that took millenniums to reach full development, and then is perhaps still courageous enough for further spiritual adventure.